Do more with your sauce!

This is not really a new recipe, its nothing fancy at all, it should really be on the tips page but I enjoyed it so much that I have put it here to have its own space!

At the weekend, I made my hidden vegetable pasta sauce to cover a basic pasta bake for my little one. She will try most fruit and vegetables but like a lot of toddlers is not keen on eating them in any great quantities and can be funny with the textures of certain things. Pasta sauce is a great way of ensuring they are eating lot of healthy vegetables.

For the record, I don’t really believe in tricking children. I want them to see what they are eating and to understand where food comes from. It is so important that children do not think that Tuna comes from a tin or that mixed peppers come out of a clear packet neatly stacked and ready.

So we make this sauce together, there are no secrets, she knows there are vegetables in there and it makes for a fun game getting her to recognise all the names (and she gets to make a loud noise using the hand blender.) Everything you do with a toddler can be a learning activity.

Heres a basic recipe of my sauce:

Ingredients

  1. 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  2. 1 Large White Onion
  3. 2 Large Sticks of Celery
  4. 2 Medium Carrots
  5. 1 Large Leek
  6. 2 Peppers (Any colour you have but red works well.) Option to use ready cooked jarred red peppers which work well too.
  7. x2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  8. 2 Large Garlic cloves
  9. 1 tbsp Caster Sugar
  10. 1tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  11. Salt and Pepper to season
  12. Chopped Parsley

Method

Chop up your veg first into even slices.

Heat the oil, cook the onion, celery, carrot and leek for 15-20 minutes on a medium heat until soft. (Lid on)

Add the peppers, if using ready cooked then go straight to next step, if using raw fresh peppers, cook these for a further 10 minutes before the following step.I buy a mixed bag of peppers and throw in whatever I have, on this particular occasion I used a yellow and orange pepper as I find the green a lot more bitter.

Add the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, simmer it for around 15 with the lid on then another 5 minutes with no lid. Make sure the heat is turned down to a simmer and the mixture does not boil at this point.

Once all vegetables are soft, throw in some chopped parsley and cool slightly then blitz with a hand blender or a stand blender if you have one as its a lot quicker!

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Above: Pre-Blending!

WP_20160421_13_30_29_Pro[1].jpgAbove: The finished sauce

There you have the hidden sauce. The next bit is the fun bit. What to do with it?!

Yes, its pasta sauce, you can smother your pasta with it, as we often do in this house, topping it with Parmesan cheese! I also have it with tears of mozzarella ripped throughout it so it goes all stretchy!

But if like me, you only have yourself and a little nibbler to feed, you will have some sauce left over.

It freezes well in an air tight container, so I often freeze this in individual portions ready to use.

I have used this sauce as a great tomato pizza base, rather than your run of the mill tomato puree. So much more flavour!

But I think my favourite use for it was at the weekend, when I smothered some Panini halves with the warmed up sauce so it soaked into the bread, then topped it with cooked chicken breast and cheese and grilled it! Add a bit of crunchy lettuce and I can honestly say I throughly enjoyed my sub! Very tasty and very thrifty using the multi purpose sauce! (And the 20p reduced paninis helped to keep the cost down…dont be afraid to buy reductions, if you buy them on the sell by date and they can freeze, do it!)

WP_20160417_12_45_35_Pro[1].jpgDo more with your sauce! ūüėČ x

 

 

 

Entering Competitions Guide

If any of you are looking at this via my Facebook page, you may be well aware that a hobby of mine is entering competitions. I started when I became pregnant with my daughter, struggling to find work at 4 months pregnant and having to find alternative things to keep my mind active during the day!

I am not mad on the process, it can be tedious entering your details again and again in the hope that you may get a treat at the end of it. When I started, I didn’t honestly believe I would win anything. I have proved myself wrong on that count, having been incredibly fortunate considering I don’t dedicate hours to it.10269416_10203303225995783_7928840097157604645_n

Above: Batman Onsie won for my daughter via Facebook.

Some people do, they spend hours every day entering everything they see to increase their chances of just winning something! I do believe that those people must be neglecting their real life and forfeiting just simply living in order to win things, but I guess everyone has their own system. I try not to do it on my daughters time at least.10443546_1482838911959946_6371539869812240144_n

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Above: Goodies for my girl won via Facebook.

Entering competitions can be a really rewarding hobby. I have joined a page on Facebook where those that are members will keep a look out for any members names in winning comments etc, which is so helpful as a lot of competitions, especially Facebook comment and share ones, do not always tag winners and you have to search for your name yourself. So this group is lovely and all congratulate each other on big wins etc, even though the majority of them have never met each other. It’s a comping community I guess and it works for them. And has done for me on a few occasions.12096516_10206276847294457_6955966107446546847_n

Amys Kitchen food vouchers Via Facebook.

Comping also gives opportunities to meet new people. Entering local competitions especially means your odds at winning are higher as more than likely you will have to collect the prize in person, meaning only local people within a certain distance will enter it.

I had a wonderful experience through a Facebook competition run by a local Greek Deli. I simply had to like, comment and share their post on their Facebook page and I was randomly selected from about 600 entries to win a gorgeous Greek hamper, which I collected from their shop in Birmingham, taking my daughter and then partner along to sample gorgeous produce and meet the owners. We were there for about an hour and I try to pop in whenever I am in Birmingham to pick up some favourites.WP_20140509_046.jpgWP_20140509_028.jpg

Above: Greek Deli win and Emilia trying the jam samples ūüėČ

Of course, nothing online comes without a few nasties. There are some people out there who do not play by the rules and have several emails, several accounts, several computers, entering things 4 or 5 times over. This is unfair but it does happen.

Also, people can be spiteful or jealous, say if you win something and they wanted it, you can be subject to bitchiness. I have heard of people even reporting other people for selling on prizes on Ebay etc. As far as I am concerned, they obviously have too much time on their hands. If you win, it’s up to you what you do with the prize. Its yours. The way to stop this from happening is only to share news about your win with friends you know you can trust, or try not to respond to any bitterness from anyone else, as they will soon get bored and find someone else to moan about!WP_20140708_002.jpgWP_20140708_022.jpg

Above: Jules Destrooper Biscuits via Facebook.

On the whole, however, I have had more positive things come out of comping than negative. Now I have a toddler to run around after by myself, on top of keeping on top of the normal daily stuff that needs doing like washing etc, I really don’t do very many at all. I might enter one or two on my phone whilst my potatoes are boiling. I might enter another on the evening whilst I wait for the kettle to boil. If you can fit them in like this, you don’t notice you are giving them time and it doesn’t encroach on your daily life. I used to sit down for an hour each evening and dedicate that hour to comping. I just don’t have the energy these days and that doesn’t¬†work around my life anymore, so I just do what I can.

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Above: Greengate baking selection via Facebook.

It honestly is luck of the draw, you have to be in it to win¬†it, as they say, and if you enter, you have a chance at least. I went months without doing any over the christmas and new year period, mainly down to personal reasons, then I randomly entered just two Facebook like, comment and share posts and within 2 days had a notification saying that I had won a hamper full of toffee for valentine’s day. It swings in roundabouts and you could enter loads and win nothing for ages. That has happened to me too. That is¬†just the way it is.

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Above: Valentines Hamper via Facebook.

I do a few here and there that take my fancy and it seems to produce a few treats a year, nothing life changing, but it’s always nice to receive¬†something for little work or effort that will bring a smile to either mine, a loved one or my daughters face.

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Above: Ginger Grouse Case via Facebook.

So if you fancy giving it a go, here are a few tips I have picked up along the way.

Facebook Competitions: These are the ones I focus on mainly because they are very easy.

1.Most of these ask you to simply like and share a post. Just like you would on a friends post. However, the promoters of competitions do like you to comment too, whether they state it or not. So even if you just write a few words or even write “liked and shared”, this will go in your favour. I have never won a Facebook competition that I havent commented on, and there’s been a fair few in the early days, so that should tell you something.

2.When you share a post on, your settings at the bottom of the post  must be changed to public rather than just fiends, as a public share is what counts as a share to promote the competition. I entered for months not realising this and once I discovered this my luck started to change. It really does make a difference.

3.Keep the share on your Facebook wall until the competition has ended and the winner has been announced. Most Facebook competitions will announce the winner on the actual competition post, failing this, they will make a separate announcement on their Facebook page. I say to keep it until the closing date as mentioned earlier, not all promoters tag you into the winners post, they often say “Congratulations so and so” without tagging your name, so it’s always worth keeping the post, checking, then you can delete it from your wall once you know you havent missed any wins!

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Above: 1st Prize Vegan Lipsticks via Facebook.

Online Competitions

I don’t do many of these but I have had wins from these!

1.There is no way, like with Facebook, of checking if you have won these. If you win a competition that you have entered your details online with, you will be notified of the win via email or telephone directly from the promoter in most cases.

2. Sometimes, your name is simply drawn and the promoter does not even notify you, in which case, the prize will turn up at your address without warning, which happened to me with a £100 LUSH hamper I had only entered to win about 5 days previously. When that happen, it feels great!

3.If you do not wish to be contacted by third parties or spam mail, always make sure you tick this option at the bottom of the entry form or else you will receive loads of junk to your email!

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Above: Various voucher wins

Other Tips

1.In most cases, for say, some toiletries or something, you should be fine to just enter. Most companies will cover the cost of the postage to winners and things like that. However, if you are entering big ones, like a holiday, always check the terms and conditions before you enter! I have known of people who have won 5 star holidays and not been able to take them because they didn’t look at the date properly, with some things having to be taken within certain weeks. Always check the terms on hamper competitions too as very often I have found these are collection ones! I was very lucky with my toffee hamper, they posted it wicker basket and all!

2. If you are not sure where to find competitions, a good place to start is theprizefinder.com. This was my starting point and is so handy as it separates the competitions into categories like Facebook, Twitter, Instant Win etc. If you sign in you can also keep a competition tracker which keeps a record for you of which ones you have entered and how many you have done. It’s a great site and I love that you can tick them off as you do them!

3. Share! Either find a group on social media like I did that shares competitions with each other or other people you know that are interested. It makes it much more fun not having to search for the competitions before you then sit and enter them!

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Above: Both items won via the advent comps at christmas via Facebook.

The pictures above are just a selection of the bits and bobs I have won over the last three years, so take my word, it can be done!

xx

Toddler Tantrums!

Ok, so when we had our daughter, we were told to prepare ourselves for sleepless nights, feeds every few hours and just becoming generally like tired zombies with no social lives and baby brains!

As it turns out, yes we were tired, really tired, but it was easier having two pairs of  hands back then and lets face it, newborn babies sleep, on a good day, for about 18 hours! To think of the luxury naps I used to have with my girl when she took one! I would take that again any day over the unstoppable tantrums thrown by a newly turned three year old toddler!WP_20160410_13_41_27_Pro[1].jpg

Garden tantrum above. Throwing leaves rather than coming inside for lunch.

Never mind the terrible twos, it’s the terrible 1.5-4 years I think! Nobody warns you about that!! I can officially say the terrible twos myth is exactly that. Or at least a downplayed version of what actually happens with young children!

On the whole, my daughter is pretty damn good. She nearly always¬†says her pleases and thank yous (lank yous), she is wonderful and well behaved most of the time when she is with just me and she’s really helpful when I ask her to be. She is so affectionate and caring and I am so proud to call her my daughter, she’s turning into a lovely little girl and I adore her so much that I feel I have lost a limb when she is away from me (which is hardly ever.)These feelings cover about 80% of our life together, which isn’t a bad thing!¬†WP_20160204_15_42_02_Pro[1].jpg

Telling me to go away tantrum above.

However, then there is the other 20% of the time. That small percentage of time where she is what can only be described as the devil. Ok, not the devil, but bloody hard work!

She draws on my walls weekly, or covers them with hand shaped prints made of paint or chocolate.(Yes I wipe her hands, if I can catch her on time.)

She breaks things almost daily (Hide everything you don’t want smashed, and even then prepare for them to still find and break it.)

She tells lies to suit to her nursery, friends, family etc. (I know they all do at this age, lets call it creative imagination.))

She plays beautifully with the children at nursery but the minute another child enters her room or a soft play environment she becomes instantly possessive over everything around her and tries to stop the other children from playing with her, with the toys, or even from looking in her general direction. “You not allowed to look at me!!” Pointing a stern finger as she does so! Highly embarrassing for me as no one would believe she is otherwise and elsewhere angelic!

She refuses to talk to her own other family members or familiar family friends or even her nan some days and instead hides behind me being generally weird. This girl is not shy. Your guess is as good as mine. WP_20150906_10_44_56_Pro[1].jpg

Come down from  a garden tantrum above.

Just lately however, if she does not get her own way, she screams. Do you fellow parents know what I am talking about? High pitched, tongue out, arms flying in the air. It could be over the simplest thing in the world, like not wanting to get on the bus. All hell breaks loose! I can deal with the rest.Shes growing up, she’s frustrated, I get it. But the screams? I am sorry for all you new parents bathing in idyllic newborn bliss thinking your baby will be a good one who doesn’t have tantrums. I was one of you too ;-). Heres a fact of life I have learned. THEY ALL DO!!!!. It doesn’t matter how you raise them,what you do differently from the next parent, it’s a part of the process im afraid. So buckle up as your time will come too ūüėČ

This past 7 days alone I have had complete and utter break downs over the following things:

Choosing the wrong colour lolly pop as her Friday treat (Nearly as bad as when I gave her the wrong coloured juice cup.)

A complete stranger on the bus daring to look at her in passing (Big no no in her book)

Not getting to stroke a dog she saw in the park on the other side of the grass (at least 50 metres away).

None of these things matter. But tell that to a three year old!

These frenzied outbursts are sudden, they are loud, they are full of rage and I am going to say I hate them! They don’t last long, usually about three minutes, although if you are out in public my god do they feel like longer!WP_20151014_10_18_44_Pro[1].jpg

Selfie tantrum above. I will let her have that one ūüėČ

So how do we deal with them? I try to ignore them. For the most part. Although there are days when I end up shouting then feel really guilty afterwards as we both have a bit of space from each other,making up with a kiss and a cuddle. We are all human and unfortunately it is not always possible to be serene and lovely when other factors of life get in the way too.

I would welcome any suggestions, although I fear we just have to ride the storm on this one. Luckily, I hope, shes just in the phase and it will pass, again, im hoping here!

For now, at least, it makes for some funny pictures to show her when she’s older ūüėČ And she really is pretty lovely, most of the time ūüėČ xWP_20160330_09_06_04_Pro[1].jpg

 

 

Vanilla Cupcakes

So I was supposed to be cleaning my house today. A toddler makes so much mess and dirt don’t they? I decided that today was the day I would start my spring clean. Then I remembered I was going to see a friend later, and its their birthday, so instead of cleaning I decided that I just had to make them some cupcakes instead! I am not going to beat myself up about my untidy living room. It will still be there tomorrow with added mess and little hand prints to wipe away.¬†Sometimes you just gotta do the thing that will make you smile more (and if someone else gets a smile too then added bonus.)WP_20160414_13_56_38_Pro[1].jpg

So back to the cupcakes! I love cupcakes! Who doesn’t?! I don’t like the mess baking makes but it’s all worth it!

I will be uploading my own recipes on this blog mostly, however, I do believe that if you find a recipe that works every time, it is definitely worth sharing on!

If I want to make a birthday batch, I always consult my Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery book. Easy to follow, come out great every time and taste amazing! I stick to vanilla then just decorate how I like.

Follow this for perfect cupcakes every time!

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  • 110g (4oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 225g (8oz) caster sugar, preferably golden
  • 2 large eggs, free-range or organic
  • 150g (5¬Ĺoz) self-raising flour, sifted
  • 125g (4¬Ĺoz) plain flour, sifted
  • 120ml (4fl oz) semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
  • 1tsp good-quality vanilla extract

METHOD

 

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C (fan)/gas 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tray or 3 x 12-hole mini muffin trays with cupcake cases.

 

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition.

 

In a separate bowl, combine the two flours. Put the milk into a jug and add the vanilla extract. Add one-third of the flour to the creamed mixture and beat well. Pour in one third of the milk and beat again. Repeat these steps until all the flour and milk have been added.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling them to about two-thirds full. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes (regular size) or 15 minutes (mini size) until slightly raised and golden brown. To check they are cooked, insert a skewer in the centre of one of the cakes¬† –¬† it should come out clean.

Icing

  • 115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 60ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 tsp good quality vanilla extract
  • 500g icing sugar, sifted
  • Few drops of food colouring (optional)

Beat together with a mixer until blended and smooth!

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 These make a great gift for a loved one presented in a lovely vintage tin.
Make sure you save the chef one. Going to enjoy mine now x
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Healthy Turkey Burgers with Avocado Sauce

My sister came to visit this week, always nice to see her, so after some very welcome help in the garden I wanted to give her a quick, healthy lunch to fuel her back up. I don’t know if anyone else does this but I am forever ripping out recipes from magazines, putting my own twist on them then writing them up as my own! I pulled this from a copy of the Waitrose magazine and with my sisters input too its ended up nothing like the original which is great. I think this one is a new favourite, with thanks to my sister in particular for inspiring me not to just eat Avocado with a spoon or on a salad! I think even those¬†that don’t like Avocado will like this sauce! Give it a try x

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Ingredients

  1. 480-500g pack of turkey mince
  2.  Salt and Pepper to season
  3. A lime
  4. 50g Fresh Breadcrumbs
  5. 4 Burger Buns (We used brioche buns as they are really soft and delicious)
  6. Half a pot of creme fraiche
  7. 1 very ripe Avocado
  8. 1 small white onion
  9. Half a red chilli chopped finely
  10. 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  11. Cheddar Cheese, grated

 

To Make the Burgers

  1. Put the mince and bread crumbs into a bowl, along with salt, pepper and the juice of half a lime. Squish it all together until combined (Fun for the kids so long as they wash their hands after!)
  2. The mixture should make about 6 patties (or 4 larger ones), so evenly share out and form then place aside until cooking.

To Make the Sauce

Put the creme fraiche, avocado and lime juice into the blender and whizz it up. That simple. Season to taste if you wish.

To Make the Onions

  1. Thinly slice the onion, add to preheated oil in a wok or none stick pan (I use my wok for everything!) and cook on a medium heat until soft and slightly coloured (Think food stand burger onions!) Should take around 5 minutes.
  2. At minute or two before you finish cooking, add the chopped chilli. (We chopped them really small and they were not hot at all, my three year old did not notice any heat, just a nice flavour!)

Cooking the Burgers

In the same pan you cooked the onions in, fry the burgers. Should take around 10 minutes, turning every couple of minutes. They soak up all the flavour of the onions too!

Combine

I am not going to tell you how to combine it as everyone can do it and has their own personal preference! We topped these with iceberg and added grated cheddar  cheese and the onions, smearing the lovely fresh Avocado sauce over both sides of the bun to soak in!

I could honestly eat about 6 of these! Will be making these weekly and it gets my daughter eating another form of green without complaining! So tasty! Enjoy x

 

 

 

Hot Yoga Love

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I am all for new experiences in my life at the moment. Especially ones that have benefits to my health and wellbeing. So last week when my sister suggested I go to her Yoga class with her, I got a little excited.

Now, I have always been one of those people who say they do yoga at home twice per week. In fact, it’s often more than this, but when I say yoga, I usually mean a few stretches in front of the tv before I head to bed, just enough to ease any tension and feel like I have done something!

So I was eager to try this and better yet, it was based within a hot yoga studio, which meant even if I didn’t manage all the moves I would still sweat out and feel I had worked out!

Truth be told, I havent managed to do any regular “proper” exercise since my gorgeous daughter was born three years ago. No, im not lazy. I honestly don’t know how parents find the time for a dedicated exercise routine before their child reaches three. All I want to do when she heads to bed is stop and rest. Not jump around the living room in order to achieve tight abs for pressures sake or to please the worlds ideal of what I should look like.

However, since becoming a single parent, not by choice naturally, and being suddenly blessed with two school time days to myself each week (thanks to her wonderful nursery) there is now no reason not to spend that time on a bit of body repair and mental healing.

I am so glad I did.

The yoga studio based in Birmingham city centre was small but peaceful.

No shoes past the front entrance. Naturally. Silence once you enter the room (I was ever so politely reminded not to talk.) No music. No phones. No noise apart from heavy nose breathing coming from the more experienced attendees!

Having been at home for three years in basic isolation talking only to my baby (Ok, slight exaggeration, but moms, doesn’t it feel that way sometimes?) it was a daunting prospect to enter the room and see lots of very slim, ultra fit yoga toned bodies in various warm up poses (One very agile lady “warming up” in a head stand, as you do.)

Despite my apprehension at the thought of possibly not being able to keep up, turns out I was fine! My first lesson was a 60 minute session and the poses combined with the heat of the room made for a pretty intense, relaxing and enjoyable experience. I have heard people say they get a natural high from exercise and up until now I could never understand it, I have always taken much more pleasure from eating a large piece of cake than running til I die! But I now completely understand, having found a gentle but rewarding exercise that suits my pace, what people rave on about when they say exercise is addictive!

I got a bit carried away and pushed myself to go to three session within 4 days (The second two upping the intensity from 60 minutes to 90 minute sessions.) Apart from a few aches and pains in the following days, I felt wonderful for it. My head was completely clear and calm after each session. My body felt relaxed but revived at the same time. And I was sure my love handles were a little less of a handful after three sessions. I could be a bit premature in imagining that one but I certainly felt better!

The instructors were great and patient with newbies (always good to not be made to feel you are holding the regulars up!) and offered plenty of encouragement to find a balance for your own personal pace rather than worrying what everyone else is doing!

So well worth a go ladies (Or gents!), be prepared to sweat a lot, drink a lot of water and come out feeling a little bit better than you went in!

They offer an introductory 20 day pass offering unlimited yoga classes for £20, meaning you could go everyday if work/family life permitted for only £1 per day.

Well worth the introduction!

http://www.yogahaven.co.uk/¬†Give it a whirl ūüėČ